US consulted by Indonesia over plans for grounded VLCC

The Indonesian authorities are in discussions with the US government about operations to refloat VLCC Young Yong (IMO 9194127), reports Singapore’s Straits Times.

The crude oil tanker, which has approaching 2m barrels of oil on board, has been sanctioned by the US Treasury for being linked to an international oil smuggling network that facilitated oil trades to fund Hezbollah and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force.

The report, citing an unnamed source familiar with the situation, claimed that the rescue of the 21-year-old tanker was no longer being overseen by local port officials based out of Karimun. “The matter has now been transferred to the Indonesian Navy, which is engaging the US to come up with a plan of action to refloat the tanker”, the source said.

The US government has allowed some transactions to take place with a sanctioned oil supertanker in efforts to free the vessel stranded in Indonesian waters, a US embassy spokesperson in Singapore said. The US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has permitted certain transactions necessary to dock and anchor the Young Yong safely and to preserve the safety of the crew, the embassy told Reuters.

OFAC has also allowed for emergency repairs at the ship and measures taken to protect the environment, the mission added.

No injuries or leaks have been reported. “At this time, the (US government’s) highest priority is minimizing the environmental and energy impact of this incident. However, OFAC has not authorized the offloading of cargo.”

A second source told the Singapore Straits Times that “the Indonesian side is not equipped to carry out this operation on their own. They just don’t have the expertise to do so. Besides, now that there are sanctions on the vessel, they are approaching with caution.”

The US and Indonesia were reported to be considering the option of appointing a US company to assist in the salvage operations. The source noted that extended delays to refloat the ship and pump out the oil from the grounded tanker could put the ship under even more stress.

The VLCC ran aground near a critical gas pipeline that supplies gas to Singapore.

It has also been linked to Ukrainian national Viktor Sergiyovich Artemov. The US Treasury has said that Mr Artemov was responsible for overseeing a vast network of cover companies and shipping services being used to receive, conceal and trade in sanctioned oil. It added that Mr Artemov had used his companies to buy and sell oil tankers that were then used to transport blended Iranian oil on behalf of the oil smuggling network.

Shaun Leong, a partner at law firm Withers KhattarWong, told Reuters that US authorities would want to be closely involved in all aspects of the handling of the supertanker because the ship might be carrying evidence on traffic data and navigational history. That might be used to prove allegations relating to the VLCC’s involvement in the international oil smuggling network. “Care would have to be taken to ensure that such material are not lost in the recovery of the ship,” he said.

The Young Yong grounded off Takong Kecil in the Riau Islands in the Singapore Strait at around 20.20 on October 26th. The grounded tanker was not impeding traffic in either the Singapore or Malacca Strait.

2001-built, Djibouti-flagged, 153,911 gt Young Yong is owned by Technology Bright International Co Ltd care of East Wind Ship management Ltd of Kowloon, Hong Kong, China. As of November 9th it remained aground.